For weeks, I’ve been longing to just do nothing. Many of you think that’s what I’ve been doing for a year, but I believe a scroll through the blog section of my site will disabuse you of that notion. Despite returning to the states, I’m still moving around, and I’m doing it less efficiently than before.
Before, it was me, a big pack, and a day pack. I was a well-oiled traveling machine. These days, it’s me, a little duffle of clothes, a computer bag, a duffel of ‘stuff,’ and the random accoutrement that collects in my car – hiking boots, bathing suit, towel, dog blanket (despite having yet to be reunited with dog), extra quart of oil. Where before I was home-free, I’m now homeless, carting belongings around the northwest, losing bits by the wayside as I go.
My insides reflect that scattered-belonging appearance. The months I traveled, I experienced everything from the here and the now. I may have been planning the next place, but I did it from a very conscious present. From a courtyard in Bogota, I purchased a plane ticket to Santa Marta, a bus ticket to Cartagena, a plane trip to Bolivia. From a beer garden in Saigon, I reserved hotel rooms in Jordan, sending the details to a friend in Denver. The courtyard was bound in magenta bougainvillea, and the beer garden hosted a Vietnamese singer covering American classic rock. I may have been addressing the logistics of another place and time, but I was doing it from a very present self. A very centered one. It was invigorating.
Now, I am anxious and scattered. I think I am done traveling, but I’ve continued to move. I’ve slept in ten different places since returning from Spain at the end of June. I rotate between a few, on a schedule set usually a week (or less) in advance. While on this merry-go-round of homestays, I’m masterminding where I’ll settle, what I’ll do for work when I get there, whether it’s the right thing to do. I fall asleep fitfully, rearranging schedules and geographies in my head (usually in favor of the calendar with the shortest amount of time between me and a reunion with the dog). I worry I’ve over-stayed my welcome at one place, and another, and another. When daylight meets my open eyes, I make lists of tasks to complete in hopes of wrangling in my wild and blurry future. I’m tired in a place that coffee never touches and sleep never rests.
But this month, I’m on Orcas. A month of doing nothing. Doing nothing is rarely, actually, nothing. In fact, it’s one of the hardest tasks to accomplish. If you don’t believe me, try it. Put whatever you’re reading this on down, and take deep slow breaths for three full minutes.
Felt like an eternity, didn’t it? Like emptying your mind so you can meditate, doing nothing is actually very, very difficult. So I will work my way there. I started this afternoon by flying a kite in wind that blew up off the ocean. While lying in the grass looking up at it, I noticed the apple tree is in fervent production mode, so I took a picture. Tomorrow I may pick some and make applesauce.
My nothing won’t come all at once. It’s going to come after a couple hikes, the books I checked out of the library today, some kite-flying and some deep, deep breaths. When it comes, as it comes, though, my nothing will be full of wonder, and focus, and rejuvenation. It will be full of vivid, short, present moments that will last an eternity.